CG's 2023 year in review.

CriticalGaming

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So now that we are at the end of the year and the final games I have interest in and would put into consideration for this year have come and gone, I think I can sit back and look back to review the year in video games that was 2023. This year I'm not going to run through my top and bottom's of the year and instead just sort of categorize games into where I think they fit in the hierarchy of the year's releases. I will say this year should have been stacked with games with some real powerhouse titles....only for them to fall really flat in my opinion. That combined with the titles that were expected to be lame made the list of releases this year a lot weaker that it otherwise looks on paper.

The failures:

Let's start with the stuff that I don't think anyone expected to be good and as predicted were everything they were cracked up to be.

Forspoken - A "modern" take on the Alice in Wonderland with a cringey attempt at Joss Whedon style writing set in a boring open world with an unbelievably unlikable protagonist. Forspoken is a shiny game that was rushed out the door without a good enough anything to keep you playing. Combat sucks, enemies variety sucks, traversal is ok but held back by an empty uninteresting world. Somewhere deep down Forspoken could have been a pretty good game, but during development they made every wrong decision possible to leave us with a waste of a game.

Redfall - In a year that the long hyped up new release from Bethesda was coming out, and several years of a lack of anything new from Microsoft, boy did these studios need to drop a winner to build back some consumer confidence. Redfall comes from Arkane who's last game got 10/10's from several outlets (not me I thought it was shit) so Redfall should have been the next Xbox hit. Instead Redfall was so bad Phil Spencer declared Sony the winner of the console war and that Xbox can't focus on making great games anymore. You know your game is shit when the CEO of the parent company has to throw the fucking towel in.

Diablo 4 - Blizzard continues to learn nothing from it's past mistakes and proves that arrogance will be their downfall until the very last WoW player unsubs kicking and screaming. Diablo 4 learns nothing from previous Diablo games, learns nothing from the current leaders in the ARPG space, and instead thinks they know better than everyone by making a generic hallow ARPG who's only saving grace is a decent story campaign. No endgame, far too many useless stats including some that don't work, a complete lack of build diversity for classes, no endgame, no unique items to chase. Diablo 4 is a shit game, however it's a shit game that in two years will be pretty okay.

Gollum - What the fuck happened here. I'm convinced this game was a fucking scam. Some developers tricked somebody into thinking that they could make a hit Lord of the Rings game, and ending up making....whatever the fuck this was supposed to be. A ugly broken stupid mess of a game that isn't worth the price of the discs it's printed on. The fact that this sold at all was mind boggling, but the fact that they wanted $50 for this bullshit is a crime.

King Kong - Actually Gollum wasn't that bad if you give it a chance.

The disappointments:

So 2023 wasn't really a year of horrible stuff, most of the games that weren't great also weren't bad. Things just didn't plan out the way one would have hoped for a lot of games that I personally was hopeful for this year.

Final Fantasy 16 - I just wanna get this one outta the way so I can never think of it again. This game should have been fantastic, instead it was a shallow on-rails adventure that made zero fucking sense. I don't know what went wrong with this game in terms of why it came out this way, but every design choice just feels incredibly undercooked. The lack of a party, the lack of good characters, the lack of a consistent story, the lack of RPG elements from the biggest RPG franchise in the world, everything about this game just falls short of the markers I think they wanted. It feels like an adventure that went far too wide for the scope of the action game they were trying to make. This is probably the most painful game to list here for me.

Like a Dragon Ishin - This game is great, really. But it's simply too heavy on the Japanese history for me and it makes the story hard to follow. Almost explains why it originally never left Japan since it's PS3 release.

Lies of P and Lords of the Fallen - God I want a good Souls-like again. Not an open world, not a crazy twist on the formula, just a good-ol decent Souls knock off. People love Lies of P, I don't understand why because I found the controls and the actions of the enemies just incompatible with the style. The focus on parrying as the best and really pretty required way to play always sits poorly in souls games. Lords of the Fallen suffers from poor level design, far too many junk enemies, and bland bosses.

Spider-Man 2 - Great game, bad sequel. They just don't do anything with this game to take advantage of Spider-Man's huge library of villains, nor do they incorporate any real reason to swap between the two Spider-man, nor any missions where they use both Spider-men to take out a bigger foe. It's just a smaller game despite the bigger map, less activities, less side missions, it's got less content than the first game in pretty much every way which is not how you should be doing a follow up game.

Starfield - I debated on whether I should even mention this game because it isn't disappointing, it's even better than I expected. But that doesn't make it good and I feel like i should at least bring it up since it is arguably the biggest release of the year in terms of hype and scope. To Bethesda's credit the game is much better made than previous games in their recent line-up in terms of bugs. Starfield is buggy, but it's not Bethesda buggy. It is however exceptionally bland and outdated in terms of design. In an era of gaming in which the loading screen is becoming extinct, Starfield bucks that trend by having more loading screens than a Playstation 1 game. The vastness of space travel is nothing more than a fast travel menu which yields into more loading screens. Each planetary visit is a fishbowl of random things all set miles away from your landing position, but with no land vehicles you are forced to hoof it leading to long periods of time in which you do nothing. But it's Bethesda so it ultimately has fans that'll love it and a mod community that'll do all sorts of shit to it.


The Best:
Okay enough depression, let's talk about the good shit. This list is small than I would have liked to see given the actual games that came out this year, but no use crying over spilt milk.

Hogwarts Legacy - Okay gameplay wise this game isn't anything to write home about. Combat is fairly plain and the quest design is super simple. However Hogwarts Legacy manages to capture the magical whimsy of what I think attracted millions of people into the wizarding world. There is a magic in this game that is shown throughout the incredible detail of the world, which makes the ease of the rest of game not important. I think this is probably the best Harry Potter game ever made and the geeky fuck isn't even in it.

Street Fighter 6 - I'm not a big fan of fighting games generally so it is quite surprising to find two fighting games on my "best" list. SF6 wins over with a simply incredible value of content, between the story mode, and the vast amount of versus modes available throughout the arcade and tournament modes. It's great fun and it's cool to see a fighting game mix so well with RPG elements.

Mortal Kombat 1 - Netherealm continues to make creative fighting game modes with the Invasion mode in MK1. A boardgame explorative game with secrets, puzzles, and fights, the mode is just so much fun to progress through that I forgot Megan Fox was in this game and she's terrible. The twist on the MK universe reboot I think was really well done and I hope they continue to expand on this new continuity though without relying on too much time traveling bullshit.

Baldur's Gate 3 - My GOTY for being the game that did everything it promised on the box without needing extra purchases, DLC or season pass content. Here is an expansive D&D campaign in video game form and the sheer number of decisions the game takes into consideration is unbelievable. The amount of freedom and play choice on display here makes BG3 easily one of the most replayable games I've ever touched. It's hands-down fantastic pretty much without exception.

Hi-Fi Rush - Gets an honorable mention because I know it was great, I just didn't play it.


The Honorable REmakes:

I wanted to give a special mention to great games that do not appear on the lists and those are the Dead Space, Resident Evil 4, Remakes. These games are fantastic remodernizations of the original games. But I don't quite think they are good enough to appear on the top list, and they also lose points for kind of being the same game as each other because I'm petty.


That all being said, who knows if we're gonna be around next year. If this is the end of the site and the forum I just wanna say it's been fun arguing with all of you. Despite the differences in our options, it's been nice to have this board to come to and rant about video games or whatever. I loved doing impressions and reviews here to have that outlet for what I thought about games as they came across my desk. Perhaps we'll gather again somewhere else soon enough.

Take care everyone. And if I don't see ya, "good morning, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight."
 
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meiam

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My memory is so crap I can't remember what I played this year pass the last few months, so...

I do remember fospoken cause yeah, could have easily been good, but yesh the writer had a vendetta against square or something.

AC6 was good! imo one of the least good AC game, but that's still good enough in my book. Seems to have done relatively well too so we might be getting a steady supply of them which will be nice.

Starfield was fine. Solid 7/10, nothing fancy but some good fun. Could have easily been better but aw well.

CP2077 phantom, I wish more dev went back and did a good second pass on their game, they really tightened the gameplay really nicely and I'm having a blast replaying, would have finished it if months of if it wasn't for my friend doing a super long civ 6 game that's eating all my time.

Haven't played BG3 for afford mention utter lack of time, but looks good and I'll get around once I can.. I hope.

I feel like if we want to meet again we just need to whisper "FF7" in the wind and you'll appear.
 
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FakeSympathy

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Alright, here we go

THE GOATS

-Baldur's Gate 3: even at early-access, I knew the potential for the game was great. It's just that there weren't enough content to keep going back to it. The full game may have ended up with some cut-contents, but I'd say I finally played something that I enjoyed to the fullest

-Dead Space 3, Resident Evil 4, and Alan Wake 2: All three of them have been great TPS horror games. Dead Space nailed the feeling of isolation, RE4 was gave me that Cronenberg-horror, and AW2 is such a psychological thriller, I kept questioning what is real

-SF6 and MK1: As CG pointed out, both are fantastic fighting games respectively. SF6 is probably the most accessible game in the series for beginners, and MK1 added so much new stuff

-Lies of P: I agree with CG, this is a flawed game; The main big baddie is cliche, some of the hitboxes are bs, and some enemy designs are clearly made to annoy you. Yet, I love its atmosphere, the weapon + handle system is fun to mess with, and I thought the VAs did a decent job.


The Disappointments

-City Skylines 2: Why do I need a super computer to run this?

-Diablo 4: I had my fun with it, but I soon realized how crappy the overworld-map design is, terrible balancing patches, shit seasons, and painfully dull leveling experience

-AC Mirage: This one really hurts. It's just under that line that would make it amazing. But at the same time, it feels like a cheap imitation of the older AC games. I wouldn't be suprised if this was a one-off game and Ubisoft continues with the Origin/Odyssey/Valhalla type of games.


The barf-inducers

-Redfall: Hey Phill, how about having better control at what the dev teams are doing, you jackass?

-Forspoken: I feel like SE just tried to throw in whatever seemed popular and came up with this.

-King Kong: You know, I must say I kinda feel bad for KK game. They only had one year to develop, and probably had no control over that. Still doesn't save it from the fact that it's a shit game

-Gollum: Unlike King Kong, the devs knew exactly what they were doing. And the fact that they charged extra for Elvish language is just wrong. The least they could've done is find VA that sounded like Andy Serkis
 
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BrawlMan

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Alright, here we go

THE GOATS

-Baldur's Gate 3: even at early-access, I knew the potential for the game was great. It's just that there weren't enough content to keep going back to it. The full game may have ended up with some cut-contents, but I'd say I finally played something that I enjoyed to the fullest

-Dead Space Remake 3, Resident Evil 4 Remake, and Alan Wake 2: All three of them have been great TPS horror games. Dead Space nailed the feeling of isolation,
Fixed. I 100% agree with you, but I am never touching BG3.

Street Fighter 6 - I'm not a big fan of fighting games generally so it is quite surprising to find two fighting games on my "best" list. SF6 wins over with a simply incredible value of content, between the story mode, and the vast amount of versus modes available throughout the arcade and tournament modes. It's great fun and it's cool to see a fighting game mix so well with RPG elements.
Hi-Fi Rush - Gets an honorable mention because I know it was great, I just didn't play it.
Thank you.

Bad:
  • Callisto Protocol - Even at $5 and all the updates, this game is not good and too tedious play.
  • Wanted Dead - They expect people to pay $60-70 for 5 stages where most the enemies are the same, aside from costume difference and a mediocre move set. I did have some expectations, but if I ever decide to buy this, it's going to be $10 or less. The game is better than Devil's Third, but that is not much a milestone, and WD fails as a Ninja Gaiden Spiritual Successor.
Good, Great, & GOAT:

  • Double Dragon Gaiden - The best rouge-lite brawler ever made (that's not just a bonus mode). I still give it to Shredder's Revenge for having the best bonus mode in this context.
  • Dead Space Remake - The best System Shock game....again and even more so now!
  • Super Mario Wonder - It has Daisy. I have not played this yet, but I will get the game at some point.
  • Street Fighter 6 - Pure perfection! Glad to have the emphasis on street, put back into Street Fighter.
  • RE4R - Makes the original look like shit.
  • Hi-Fi Rush - Excellent PS2 style action platformer with an amazing soundtrack!
  • Bomb Rush Cyberfunk - Jet Set 3 with House, Techno, and Lo-Fi Hip Hop.
 
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FakeSympathy

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Fixed. I 100% agree with you, but I am never touching BG3.
Yeah, that's something I have to agree with. I loved it, but due to how massive it is I just couldn't find energy to start my second run. Which is a shame because I heard monks are super fun to play
 
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Johnny Novgorod

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My list:

Blasphemous II
Resident Evil 4
Rogue Legacy 2
Edit: Sea of Stars!
 
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sXeth

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Well of what I recall playing this year:

I know Evil West and MH:Rise were older lol.
- Well, to quickly rundown, Evil West was fine. Neat concepts but never really seemed to popoff. Kind of clunky in boss fights too.
- Monster Hunter I'll save time and just hit the only negative I had, which was the inane tower defense mode, a style of gameplay the entire mechanisms of the game actively kind of fight against ever working. Apparently gone in the Expansion but I haven't actually gotten there yet.

The demos of FF16 and Lies of P both bored me to tears. FF16 could not make me care less about the dude and the combat barely stuck out as serrviceable (apparently it gets better later or something). Lies of P was just rote memorization of parry times while fighting enemies who should die about 5x quicker when you're perfect parrying them then they do, just pointless grind and sponginess for alleged "difficulty". The aesthetic was neat though)

Wild Hearts
- Just never seemed to grab me, always felt kind of clunky, couldn't really get into it

Dredge
- Dredge would be an excellent mobile game. Dredge is not a mobile game though. It falls into mindless repetition pretty fast and there's effectively no incentive to actually engage with what horror elements there, other then a bare handful of "but thou must" occasions because you are a videogame protagonist and thereby must follow the plot

Strayed Lights
- A highly atmospheric and wonderfully soundtracked action game. Sort of in comparison to something like The Pathless. Unlike The Pathless (which was a prior GotY) though, it doesn't have the cool movement, and the Sekiro-lite boss fights all feel kind of samey.

Miasma Chronicles
- Solid enough at its turn-based tactical combat with some RPG elements stuff. But the story and voice acting in particular never takes off.

Armored Core
- A game that either has 0 difficulty, or all the difficulty, seemingly more or less at random. Dark Souls got its DNA in here so theres both a massive close range focus, but also a massive focus on boss fights, and if you thought the in-between the boss fights in Souls was pointless travel time, this one takes that up to 31.

BG3
- So this is an interesting case, in a vacuum, this is probably a solid and impressive game (wanky romance fodder aside). In comparison to actual D&D, I'd almost say it suffers for trying to hard to emulate something it literally can't (and without a DM to offset the classic dice screw)
(also having way too much experience with Forgotten Realms D&D its almost headache inducing how many things are out of place and nonsense from the lore side)
(And in what I assume is Larian's style coming with the "all the characters can be the main character" approach, their indvidual subplots presented as a group is over-cluttered and noisy and seems highly implausible, given no one was going out of their way to specifically put together a batch of unique weirdos, several of whom have world-reshaping odd quirks)

TotK
- I mean, I managed to get the game to hard crash 3/5 of the times I played it lol. Maybe you should'nt do a genre/mechanic notorious for instability on a system thats already capping out just to handle your open world adventure game. Anyhow, my ability to out-engineer the games engine aside, I didn't like BotW and TotK doesn't really change any of the reasons I didn't like BotW. If anything it doubles down them. (Also why are the machine parts a gacha game?)


Atlas Fallen
- Solid middle of the road action game. Goes on way too long and I wish AA developers who have neat concepts would stop trying to do AAA stuff they clearly don't have the resources for.

Sea of Stars
- My GotY nod. A nostalgia throwback to the golden era of Square/SNES RPG. But with improvements and some original flavor that sets it apart. And likable characters, which apparently is outlawed in actual JRPGs or something. Though that opening segment is definitely way too slow paced.

RE:4make
- The original was a clunky repetitive shooter with bullet sponges, a near absence of actual horror due to repetition (and the obvious meant to win by shooting presentation), and some cheesy camp dialogue that sort of gave it a charm.
- The remake is a no longer clunky, but still repetitive shooter with.... you get the point. Also they added some grindfest challenges because that apparently must be a thing in remakes (*side eyes FF7R*), and sanded off a bunch of the campier moments (particularly Leons videophone that just no longer exists at all)

Age of Wonders 4
- This is about the closest I get to Heroes of Might and Magic now (because F Ubisoft's stupid versions after 5). Neat little fantasy-ish flavored version of Civ and you get to make your own factions and themes up with various races and themes. This would probably be my runner up GotY

Darkest Dungeon 2,
- Take DD1 and throw out any semblance of preparation or a long game. This might appeal to people specifically looking for a pure roguelite experience, but I find it a drastic step down in the strategy and consequence management of the original. And way to over-dependent on something getting good luck runs.

And to round it out, not games but expansions:
Warframe : The Duviri Paradox : Kind of a hit and miss with this one. A major level of ambition and effort, and some unique ideas. But I don't know that roguelike element and hyper-complex build shooter RPG exactly work out (and the roguelike mode both completely leaves off one component of your possible build, and is weirdly weighted to items you haven't chosen to keep around, often seeming to purposefully gimp you). Also prettymuch the entire story and half of the post-story content is another non-Warframe mode in Warframe. Anyhow this is the last gasp of the old dev team who have moved on to Soulframe (which this almost seems like a backdoor pilot to) and Whispers in the Wall seems like it will return back to Warframe gameplay proper later this year (if it gets out on time, DE:layed meme lol)

Destiny : Lightfall : I can't even comment. I got it as part of a deep sale. But the people I knew were already grinding away the endgame, or even more of them had just burnt out of the game shortly after. And not one to play a multiplayer shooter myself to trudge all the way up through it all, never got to it. Secondhand wise, Destiny has had a lot of problems with over-monetizaiton and Lightfall seemingly is another vicitm of this, as the expansion itself cut off with followup stories presented in a separate season pass instead. I'd say the death knell has probably sounded for Destiny at this point as its insanely confusing to even figure out how to spend stupid amounts of money properly to experience in. And then you're playing catch up with the few die hards who have been at the thing for years.
 
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Specter Von Baren

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What's come out this year?

Labyrinth of Galleria.
Sequel to Labyrinth of Refrain, I only started playing it recently but so far it feels mostly like more of the same (I'm still really early on though) but that's fine as the OG was good.

Void Terrarium 2.
Currently on hiatus from it due to getting distracted from it. Felt like it was an improvement on the original as far as story but I hadn't gotten far enough to see all the changes. Need to get back to it. I did find the setup a little too easy given how the first game ended though.

Little Witch Nobeta.
I dunno... I should get back to it but I was put off by how much the world looked like default medieval assets. Made it feel cheap.

Dredge
A nice and cozy Lovecraftian fishing game? Not what you'd expect. I think it's a solid game and it feels like the best way to introduce "normies" to cosmic horror. I will say that it feels like the main conceit of the game runs out of steam at the last leg of the game. It could have done with a little more depth in its mechanics. But overall, good. Nice art style and music and atmosphere.

I'll come back with my thoughts on other games later.
 

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The remake is a no longer clunky, but still repetitive shooter with.... you get the point. Also they added some grindfest challenges because that apparently must be a thing in remakes (*side eyes FF7R*), and sanded off a bunch of the campier moments (particularly Leons videophone that just no longer exists at all)
RE4R is nowhere near as repetitive as the original. I do admit chapter 14 drags a little, but otherwise it's fine. While there are no more video calls, the awesome banter Leon and most of the other bosses more than make up for it. Especially the optional ones or if you do certain actions.

Well, to quickly rundown, Evil West was fine. Neat concepts but never really seemed to popoff. Kind of clunky in boss fights too.
The game pops off fine for me, but I have no trouble admitting that the boss battles are lacking or not that fun. Honestly the best bosses are the mini bosses, and not the main ones. The next the last boss can especially suck it. All I can say is that having auto aim on makes that boss a complete bigger pain.
 

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Teslagrad 2.
Eh... It's a fine enough game, but it feels like they really should have tightened things up from the previous game. Lots of improvements could have been made on readability, glitches, and sound design that weren't taken and the setting just doesn't have the same lure that the OG had. It's not a bad game, just disappointing that it isn't better than it is.

Live A Live
Another I need to get back to, but the art and style shown were certainly promising. Just need to get in the right mood for it.

Tears of the Kingdom
Really is Breath Of the Wild again as far as the feel it gives but it doesn't give the feeling of just being a complete retread since the abilities given to you for navigating the world are so much different. The addition of the sky and underground also help to make it feel fresh. It won't convert people that didn't like the first game but it's certainly good for those that wanted more BotW without just doing the same things the same ways as before.

Pikmin 4
Fantastic. It's a greatest hits of Pikmin, bringing back tons of memorable enemies from the previous games, but also does a lot of new things to make it feel new. I especially appreciate how they were able to have a no time limit overworld for exploration while still being able to incorporate the dandori from the first and third games into it through the dandori challenges and vs battles. My one real complaint is that, aside from the Groovy Long Legs and the final boss, bosses lack a lot of challenge and don't feel threatening enough. But overall it gets an A+ from me.
 

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Blasphemous 2
An excellent game though it could use work to bring it up to par with it's predecessor, though the devs seem to be working on that. I think though, that currently, while I'd say it has better gameplay than the original, it feels like it lacks things on the edges that made the OG so unique. The dialogue isn't as austere and opaque as the original and things like the menu system lack the embellishments from the first. (As am example, in the OG the rosary page showed a hand holding an actual rosary but here it's just a generic menu) But it is a great game with an amazing soundtrack. The game deserves an award for the music, it's that good.

And I guess that's all for the "major" releases. I'll have to refresh my memory on the smaller games I've played this year.
 
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Johnny Novgorod

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Blasphemous 2
An excellent game though it could use work to bring it up to par with it's predecessor, though the devs seem to be working on that. I think though, that currently, while I'd say it has better gameplay than the original, it feels like it lacks things on the edges that made the OG so unique. The dialogue isn't as austere and opaque as the original and things like the menu system lack the embellishments from the first. (As am example, in the OG the rosary page showed a hand holding an actual rosary but here it's just a generic menu) But it is a great game with an amazing soundtrack. The game deserves an award for the music, it's that good.
I'm playing this right now and 100% on everything you said.

Gameplay has evolved into something much more versatile. At least as far as platforming goes, it leans towards the Guacamelee way of asking you to combine all these different moves and attacks into navigating what are essentially obstacle course rooms. The freedom of movement also kinda trivializes combat; I've liked the boss design so far but it's nowhere near as demanding or punishing as the first game.

And yeah, there's a certain something missing from the OG. The sequel isn't as creepy or mysterious. I don't mind the pretentiousness since it goes well with the religious setting. But I miss the aesthetic. The cutscenes look kinda cheap, about on level with a Netflix "anime". I don't like how the bosses are also essentially an anime roster now and how they each have their little speech before and after being defeated. In the OG you weren't sure what the hell you were fighting half the time, and the game got more mileage out of that feeling of isolation ala Shadow of the Colossus.

But yes, gameplay wise this is the high point of the two.
 
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sXeth

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Long rambling prior post aside.

Sea of Stars was the top pick, Age of Wonders 4 as the runner up

I was adept/sane enough to avoid the absolute drizzleshits so I don't specifically have the bottom feeder pile.

Wild Hearts and Darkest Dungeon 2 were probably the disppointers.

Everything else was just kind of mush of varying averageness.
 

meiam

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Well I hope you age of wonder 4 people are happy cause I just brought it. Thought 3/planetfall were okay so we'll see.
 

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I'm playing this right now and 100% on everything you said.

Gameplay has evolved into something much more versatile. At least as far as platforming goes, it leans towards the Guacamelee way of asking you to combine all these different moves and attacks into navigating what are essentially obstacle course rooms. The freedom of movement also kinda trivializes combat; I've liked the boss design so far but it's nowhere near as demanding or punishing as the first game.

And yeah, there's a certain something missing from the OG. The sequel isn't as creepy or mysterious. I don't mind the pretentiousness since it goes well with the religious setting. But I miss the aesthetic. The cutscenes look kinda cheap, about on level with a Netflix "anime". I don't like how the bosses are also essentially an anime roster now and how they each have their little speech before and after being defeated. In the OG you weren't sure what the hell you were fighting half the time, and the game got more mileage out of that feeling of isolation ala Shadow of the Colossus.

But yes, gameplay wise this is the high point of the two.
You'll love Odon then. But as for the cutscenes, they certainly look better than the original's as far as pure quality, but again, it feels like they also miss some of the flavor of the first. The sketchy messy look felt appropriate for the violence of the game.

The first game was also apparently a bit too easy when it first released and it's current state was achieved after a lot of polishing, so I look forward to playing 2 again after they've improved on it.
 
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Johnny Novgorod

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You'll love Odon then. But as for the cutscenes, they certainly look better than the original's as far as pure quality, but again, it feels like they also miss some of the flavor of the first. The sketchy messy look felt appropriate for the violence of the game.

The first game was also apparently a bit too easy when it first released and it's current state was achieved after a lot of polishing, so I look forward to playing 2 again after they've improved on it.
Odon was great, felt like a Souls boss. Him and Afilaor have been the most challenging bosses so far.

I will say I appreciate how they didn't turn enemies into pinball bumpers that fling you across the screen if you so much as touch them, which was a source of much aggravation in the first game.

Only reason I can think why they would switch the art style is that the original was a result of limited resources and they felt compelled to "elevate" the sequel. But the crudeness in the original went well with the themes of the game (violence, punishment, body horror) and splitting the aesthetic between that and the crisp hand drawn look of a Netflix show just takes me out of it.
 

Johnny Novgorod

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Sea of Stars was the top pick, Age of Wonders 4 as the runner up
Only thing keeping SoS from my #1 is the two playable characters having napkin personalities.

Some character stuff was also resolved in a very rushed way and I don't take "saving it for the sequel maybe" as an excuse.
 
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Old_Hunter_77

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Dec 29, 2021
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Quite a year, indeed. For me I think it will have been the most video game year of my adult life for two reasons:

1) All the post-Covid-delayed games coming out was just insane to watch and follow.

2) I ended up trying a lot of different games outside my normal comfort zone. I don't know if I played more hours of games than previous years (probably that was when I was deep in FromSoftware obsession), but I played more types of games.


This is the year I played a lot more new games on release than before. I played:
- a fighting game: Street Fighter 6. I haven't played a fighting game since... Virtua Fighter 2?
- a proper "cRPG": Baldur's Gate 3.
- an aRPG: Diablo 4

And my reaction to all these were basically that I enjoyed them to some degree, but the reasons I never really got into them kicked in and when that happened they kicked in fast and hard. I'm glad I explored, but I'm good for a while.

All this exploration solidified the two types of games I really love:

1- 3rd person action adventure narrative games with fully acted cut scenes and fancy-ass graphics.
This year delivered one masterpiece in Spiderman 2 and one pretty really very good one in Jedi: Survivor.

2- Quirky indies with relatively simple controls but very gameplay focused with cute characters and chill/awesome music.
This year delivered one masterpiece in Cocoon, one really pretty very good one in Jusant, and one good one in Dredge.

Disappointments this year:

Assassin's Creed Mirage- u/FakeSympathy said it well, I pretty much agree with them.
The annoying thing about this one is that I got a cheap thrill at being the AC defender around here, and this game was so freakin' lame I couldn't even bother to fake it.

Final Fantasy 16- I don't hate it quite as much as u/CriticalGaming, in fact I enjoyed my time with it, it's just that last third really took all the weaknesses, blew them up to the point of obscuring its strengths, and souring me on it. It's a shit feeling playing dozens of hours of a game and being let down.
(Maybe that's why I seem to like Jedi: Survivor more than some- its crescendo and ending are really nice and I actually enjoyed the whole game).

Armored Core 6- the terrible pacing issues with difficulty manifested in the physics and mechanics of everything I don't like about the FromSoftware trends since Sekiro reaching their peak.

Wo-Long Fallen Dynasty- it's like Sekiro, they said. My ass, it is.

So my GOYT list is basically:
#1 Cocoon
And like it's not even close I love love love this game so much. This game reminded me of why I like video games no matter how pissy I get about anything else gaming.

#2 Spiderman 2
Distant second but by far my favorite 'big" game.

#3 Jedi Survivor
It's just what I like, but I'm not gonna claim it's great or important or anything.

#4 Street Fighter 6
Less for the game itself and more for my own experience with it, I guess. It was the most interesting game I played this year and that's something.

#5 Dredge, Hi-Fi Rush, Jusant
These are all perfectly lovely games I played and enjoyed but I'm not gonna think about them after today.

Best game replays:
As important as new games is just whatever else you play in between, and earning achievements or getting a deeper appreciation or understanding or mastery of something you played before can be just as enjoyable. so..

#1: Death's Door
Beating the whole game using just an umbrella as the melee weapon. I absolutely adore this game and it was a thrill to revisit it, but now also while feeling like a combat master (even though the combat is stupid simple but whatever let me have my fantasies).

#2: Ghost of Tsushima
Every so often there is a thing in a medium that exemplifies the pinnacle of what you like and replaying this with the PS5 update and DLC made me realize that's what this game is for me- it is my benchmark. The previous one of course being:

#3: The Witcher 3 (next gen update)
Any excuse to play this one, I guess, still hasn't gotten old. And yeah, it's still great.

Best games I didn't play (probably)
- Super Mario Wonder- seriously this looks hella cute
- Pikmin 4- like now at the end of the Switch 1 era is when I feel the lack of having one lol
- Tears of the Kingdom- like, I get it, but whatever
- Dave the Diver- looks like Dredge, a perfectly nice little game I would enjoy but gets a suspicious amount of love from some internet try-hards

Best games that also exist, in that I might enjoy them for a bit and get bored, but not even worth that
- Starfield
- Forspoken
- Atlas Fallen

Best games I would have enjoyed 3 years ago, but now I can't even any more
- Lies of P
- Lords of the Fallen

Best game to read about on the internet but not actually play- Alan Wake 2

Best games to mock- Redfall

Best non-video game video game thing
I know it's not the first year we've had adaptations that don't suck (Arcane!) but it's the first year where I now I expect them to be... respectable. The Last of Us and Castlevania: Nocturne kinda shows both ways to do it right. The former actually had my staunch gaming-agnostic wife to ask "so what happens in the video game?" Truly the culture has advanced.

Worst non-video game video game thing
Layoffs in a year of insane profits and so many games. Fucking bullshit and I hate our economy.

It's been one of the best video game years of all time for sure. Not necessarily for the actual games, but it was just... interesting.